Sightseeing at the seminary

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Keep a careful eye out for several Phoenix seminarians in the above video. And learn about the path to priesthood while you’re at it.

If you’re ever in the Denver area, consider connecting with one of the Diocese of Phoenix seminarians. If his schedule allows, he’d likely take you on a thorough tour of seminary grounds, especially the chapel.

Well, to be fair, the same hospitable spirit would likely hold true if you connected with a Phoenix seminarian studying in Columbus, Ohio and Rome, but Denver might be a bit more accessible for most of us. This trio of seminarians gave us a beautiful tour of the Christ the King Chapel at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver this fall.

Anthony Dang, Kevin Penkalski and Andrew Olson pose for a picture after offering a private tour of Christ the King Chapel at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Considering I stopped by on an unofficial visit, I didn’t have a notebook with me, so here is a recap of that tour based on memory, photos taken that day and info from the chapel brochure they sent me home with.

Bits from the brochure:

Jules Jacques Benedict, architect, built it in imitation of architecture characteristic of northern Italian churches in the 6th to 8th centuries. Its cruciform plan is a classic example of traditional Roman Basilica.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that some seminarians sit to the side of the altar during Mass though like some Phoenix area churches. Six private side chapels, not rows of pews, fill that cruciform shape.

The chapel’s pews are a bit fuller though. Enrollment from the Diocese of Phoenix and others across the country are up enough this year that seminary administration officially added another table in the dining hall, or refrectory, in seminarian lingo.

Our tour actually started in the chapel’s sacristy. We got an intimate look at vestments — including the rare black ones — the monstrance, which was to be used at a regular public adoration session later that night, a processional cross only used when the archbishop visits and more.

While we were here, Andrew Olson was warming up the fairly new pipe organ and a short time later played us a sample.

 

The main chapel has an altar for Mass offered in the Roman Rite and another behind it for Masses in the Latin rite. A stained glass window of Christ the King is behind the center of the high altar. Four remaining windows show the great Doctors of the Western Church and their iconographic symbols.

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When facing the altar, these side chapel options are to your left. The young men said it’s common to find fellow seminarians in all of them during non-class time, especially as exams approach. For more on St. Charles Borromeo, patron of seminarians, here is a quick bio.

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Back facing the main altar, these private side chapels are to the right. Note that the Blessed Virgin Mary chapel (above slideshow) directly faces the St. Joseph chapel which sits in the center on the main chapel’s right side (see below).

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All six figures, when counting both sides, are important to the priestly life. The seminarians also spoke very highly of a frequent confessor, who in so many ways, sounds like the personality of St. John Vianney himself… a perfect person to have at a seminary named after the patron saint of priests.

That priest was actively serving during the time of Columbine and beyond. He is now retired. Perhaps some day soon he could live in this retirement home for priests. It’s set to open at the seminary any day now and will bring the priestly life full circle.

One final thought…

The seminary’s chapel is named after Christ the King, whose feast day ends the liturgical year. Check out this short reflection/piece of advice one Phoenix seminarian has as we enter into Advent and a new liturgical year.